Wildlife licenses are required where proposed works have impacts on protected species that would, in the absence of a licence, be illegal. The penalties for contravening legislation with regards to protected species, consist of an unlimited fine and up to six-months in prison – on top of bad publicity (etc.) associated with a conviction. It is therefore imperative that appropriate survey, assessment and mitigation is integrated into the programme and design of a scheme upfront, and the need for a licence identified early on in the development process.
The last few years have seen an overhaul by Natural England with regards to wildlife licenses and the approach in terms of how protected species are dealt with as part of development and the planning system. In this article we provide an update on the current situation with regards to licence fees.
The Wildlife Licence Charges (England) Order 2018came into force in October 2018. Following on from this, a phased implementation of license charges commenced in April 2019, implemented by Natural England’s new wildlife licensing service – prior to the Order, the service has been completely funded by the taxpayer. Charges mainly affect licences issued under The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.
Charges have been introduced for a number of reasons including: ‘cost recovery’ for compliance monitoring (with the aim of improving outcomes for wildlife), and much needed improvement of the licensing service itself through increased investment. Rising numbers of applications in recent years has put the service under considerable pressure, leading to lengthy delays in turnaround times, which have proved problematic for some projects.
Currently, charges are in place for bats and hazel dormice. Charges for badger mitigation licenses are due to be in place by late July 2019 and charges for great crested newt licenses are scheduled for November 2019 (dates correct at the time of writing). From July 1st, modifications to existing bat and dormouse mitigation licenses will also be subject to a charge in most cases (unless modifications are ‘trivial’ in nature or an exemption applies).
In the absence of an exemption, there are two main routes for charges — those that apply to a ‘simple’ project will be receive a fixed fee (£500 in the case of bat mitigation licence A13), and those that apply to more complex projects – the charges for this will be based on an hourly rate (£101 an hour), plus an additional charge towards compliance monitoring (£183 in the case of a bat mitigation licence A13).
Charge exemptions are applied in certain circumstances. These include preserving public health and safety; preventing the spread of disease; science or education; nature conservation; historic building conservation and conserving a bat roost(s) in situ.
Our team of ecologists are able to take you through the licensing process, from advising on the type of licence required for your project, through to preparation of related documentation required for a licence application, and liaison with Natural England.